The Los Angeles Lakers (24-11) will host the Phoenix Suns (22-11) in Tuesday’s best NBA matchup in the late slot on TNT. The Lakers have won two in a row after a four-game skid while the Suns are 14-3 in their last 17 games. The Lakers were 3-0 against the Suns last season, but this is shaping up to be the best Phoenix team in over a decade.
Los Angeles are a 2-point favorite at most top sportsbooks. Can the Suns pull out the win?
Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Tuesday, March 2, 2021 – 10:00 PM EDT at STAPLES Center
Phoenix: Still Hot
The Suns just completed an outstanding February where they were 12-3 and had the highest FG% (.511) in the league. The Lakers were the only team to shoot a higher 2P% (.582). The difference, however, came from behind the arc, where the Suns were connecting 39.6% of the time (ranked fifth) while the Lakers were dead last at 29.6%, the only team under 30% in February. That sounds like incoming regression, but the three has not been good for the Lakers this season, who rank 25th in 3P% (.348).
Phoenix is 15-1 this season when shooting at least 2.0 percentage points better from the field than its opponent. That is a mark the Suns cleared, often with ease, 10 times in 15 February games.
Phoenix has been on another level offensively in the last few weeks, but the last two games have seen the three-point shots go cold. The Suns only made 13 total threes in Chicago and Minnesota after having at least 14 threes in five straight games before that.
Devin Booker still came up huge on Sunday against Minnesota with a season-high 43 points. Booker and Chris Paul should have the upper hand in the matchup with Los Angeles’ guards while Deandre Ayton is also a capable big man (22 points in consecutive games) who will not have to worry about Anthony Davis being out there for the Lakers.
Lakers: Coming Off Easy Wins
A four-game losing streak is a big deal for a title contender like the Lakers, especially without Davis back yet. After beating Portland, the Lakers seemed to make a statement on Sunday that things are still fine with LeBron James leading the way, making short work of the Warriors in a 117-91 victory. The Lakers took the lead 40 seconds into the game and never looked back. No one had to play more than 25 minutes as the game was just never competitive after the first quarter.
The Lakers are still hurting offensively without Davis, who will miss his eighth straight game with injuries to his calf and Achilles. Since Davis left injured against Denver on Valentine’s Day, the Lakers have had five games where they failed to score more than 105 points. They had four such games in their first 27 games this season.
The Lakers’ Offensive Rating is plus-8.0 points better with Davis on the court this season, which is almost the same impact as James (plus-8.1). The Lakers did not shoot great in these last two wins, but their opponents had two of the worst shooting games against them all season, especially from three-point territory where both finished under 30%. The Lakers also had a huge rebounding edge (plus-25) against the Warriors, their second-best game of the season in that department. Golden State struggles with rebounding, losing that battle 25 times in 35 games compared to a Phoenix team that is 18-14-1 in the rebounding battle. That is a very similar record to the Lakers (18-15-2).
James continues to play well without Davis, shooting 52.5% from the field and averaging 25.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game over the last seven games. However, anything short of a virtuoso performance against a solid Phoenix defense may not be enough for the Lakers in this one against a hot Suns offense. James has a monster advantage against the forwards of the Suns, but Phoenix has the edge at guard and center and have been playing more consistent basketball for weeks now than the defending champs.
According to Basketball Reference, the Suns are now fourth in SRS and Net Rating, jumping ahead of the fifth-ranked Lakers. We know injuries have had a big impact on that, but those are the breaks in the NBA. The Lakers are limited right now and Phoenix is hot.
FiveThirtyEight still gives the Lakers a 55% win probability in this one, but I like the Suns to pull out a tough road win. Phoenix is 22-11 ATS this season, the second-best spread record in the NBA. The Lakers are just 16-19 ATS and 7-11 ATS as a home favorite.
Phoenix is 5-0 ATS as a road underdog this season. I am going to trust the Suns in my NBA picks for Tuesday to go to 6-0.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.